Businesses are constantly faced with the same issue when it comes to the basic stages of an invoice payment cycle: billing, system entry, processing, exit (payment). However, there are far more steps to be considered, especially when you just want a streamlined, straight-through invoice process. But what does that really mean?
Experts define straight-through (invoice) processing as involving as little human involvement as possible to accomplish tasks at maximum speed without sacrificing accuracy, security, or flexibility. In other words, digital process automation. Specifically, accounts payable automation and more specifically, a cloud-based automated invoice processing platform.
This technology provides business finance departments with the ideal (automated) invoice workflow process that handles their invoices end-to-end, covering all the steps from purchase to payment. As a result, the business will see drastically lowered costs, shorter invoice processing cycle times, and unlock a treasure trove of actionable insights based on a variety of real datum. But not all automation software is the same.
Key questions to ask before choosing an invoice automation software system
Any business researching software platforms to automate their invoice processing (and the entire accounts payable process) should check under the bonnet to make sure the system’s features and tools will match with their specific needs. Based on questions typically received from existing and prospective business customers of Yooz, these include:
- How can we maintain maximum flexibility to process invoices and pay on time and with as few exceptions or errors as possible?
- Is it easy is it to customize the invoice automation workflow process?
- Is the automated payable system implementation straightforward and painless?
- What about ease of use for the company’s accounts payable team once the invoice automation system is up and running?
Let’s dive into each of the above questions in more detail and explore how a cloud-based solution addresses each one of them.
Easy does it: the mantra of automation and invoice processing
First and foremost, a smart automated invoice processing system should account for both existing business needs as well as possible future business needs. This means a scalable automation platform that can adjust at any time according to company needs.
Two words: flexibility and customization.
From an outside perspective, many businesses have developed an accounts payable invoice process that appears complex and unwieldy. Unfortunately, this can be a reality since many automation invoice processing platforms are in fact limited and rigid in their invoice workflow options.
On the other hand, using a cloud-based solution for invoice processing automation gives company management greater flexibility and control including the ability to customize (or fine-tune) the invoice workflow process at any time or during any step, according to specific (or changing) needs.
For example, consider how invoices are routed. During the first step in the process, an invoice arrives at the business by entering the system (typically through optical character recognition or OCR) and data is immediately captured. The software extracts and understands predetermined data points including amounts, PO numbers, due dates, and bank information with the help of machine-learning algorithms. It then interacts with a business’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system to provide real-time extracted data.
Yooz cloud-based OCR takes flexibility to an additional level, benefitting from a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that renders it agile and constantly self-improving. In fact, the software has seen over 100 million invoices from more than a million vendors. This means that the invoice processing system will be able to capture and make sense of more than 80% of all incoming invoices right from the start without any additional configuration.
The system has also interacted with a broad range of ERPs providing company users with a built-in flexibility that helps streamline the invoice payable processing system.
But what happens once the data has been extracted? Is it really that simple to customize the invoice workflow process?
Routing and remote approval: the beauty of an invoice automation software system
Thanks to payable automation software, a business can continue to process invoices 24/7 once the necessary parameters have been set. Then consider the next stage in the invoice payment process: routing and remote approval.
For example, should invoices be routed to one person for approval or to a group of people? Should they receive those invoices in a certain order? A quality automation platform lets you set up and change process parameters with only a few clicks. In fact, an automated invoice processing system solution should also make it easy to adjust spending thresholds that trigger different requirements for payment approval and who has access to the information.
Placement and use: making it happen
Great! Now you know that an automated invoice processing system can be both flexible and customizable. It can also be easy to use once the system is in place. But how about the time to reach this point? Is the automation implementation process for such a system straightforward and painless?
Two phrases: ease of implementation and ease of use.
In general, a business can expect the automation implementation process to be straightforward and painless. However, each company is different and there is no overall answer to fit every circumstance.
What a company should expect – and get – is expect knowledgeable support that will help guide your business through the implementation process in the most time-efficient manner. This same level of support is ongoing once the payment system is up and running.
No growing pains with smart invoice processing software
Its normal for businesses to change and grow and for this growth to require modifications in existing processes (such as in the automated invoice processing system). For example, let’s assume that a company plans to acquire or merge with another business which may have a different payment automation software in place. Perhaps it even still relies on a mostly manual workflow.
Your platform of choice should allow the company accounts payable group to quickly onboard its new colleagues while still respecting the established invoice workflow processes. After all, one of the goals of an automated invoice system is to account for and reduce conflicts. For this reason, its usually unnecessary to delay implementations until an acquisition or merger is completed. Adjustments such as escalation rules or skipping an approval step to adjust for a growing back office only takes a few clicks. After all, another business is waiting on the payment process to be completed!
How Automated Invoice Processing Software Takes the Small Stuff off Your Plate
The Yooz dashboard has an intuitive interface that any accounts payable staff versed in manual processes (or even the art of the spreadsheet) will easily understand. A particular benefit to this is that all data gathered from the invoices and invoice process is quickly available at your fingertips. This increased visibility and ease of use has multiple benefits, freeing the AP staff from:
- Having to spend time identifying roadblocks
- Reviewing and approving every single invoice. Only invoices that the software flags as exceptions will be escalated to human review. These include those that don’t meet criteria such as 3-way matching or present limits, including incomplete documents, duplicates, or potentially fraudulent submissions.
- Searching for specific documents or answers to supplier inquiries. Since every invoice is indexed by AI, finding a particular entry is as easy as using a search engine in your browser. All invoices and corresponding purchase orders are securely stored in the cloud, so staff members can instantly retrieve documents.
Since the accounts payable group usually spends one-quarter of their time fielding vendor inquiries, any time saver is an immediate plus. When that time saver is also easy to use… What’s not to like? Plus the additional savings in time, cost, and effort from eliminating the need to lug around boxes of paper or paying for precious storage space.
Invoice automation software makes your accounting team happy
With all the above it comes as little surprise that a business running intelligent automated invoice processing systems such as Yooz’s report higher job satisfaction rates for company accounts payable teams. Instead of shuffling paper, they suddenly have their hands (and heads) free to focus on the important tasks with a higher value-add like managing relationships with your key suppliers or sharing real-time financial intelligence with other departments.
Invoice automation software makes your management happy
While satisfied employees create a positive work environment, the fact that an invoice automation processing systems saves on costs should make any business management happy. For example, Yooz can capture, review, and route invoices for approval and payment in record time. This typically results in 80% lower processing costs per invoice including cycle times measured in days (not weeks).
Automated invoice processing has another key benefit. It drastically reduces the number of exceptions accounting staff must deal with, weeding out errors and mistakes that can lead to erroneous or duplicate payments. An automated streamlined workflow that handles invoice processing all the way through payment also means capturing all early-pay discounts and tapping a new venue stream with cash-back from using virtual credit cards for electronic payments.
Ever since the pandemic led to thinned-out staff and work-from-home company mandates, a customizable invoice automation process can make the difference between a business staying open or accumulating piles of unprocessed invoices that will delay payments, incur late fees, and risk annoying key suppliers.
Being able to customize and make changes throughout the business invoicing process is crucial. After all, with the right accounts payable invoice workflow process, everybody wins.